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Harare

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Harare, 1995

Harare is the capital of Zimbabwe.

Harare is home to some two million people, with most in central Harare but some 500,000 in the surrounding districts of Rural Harare, Chintungwiza and Epworth. Once a city of modern buildings, wide thoroughfares, numerous parks and gardens, it is now in increasing disrepair thanks to Zimbabwe's economic downward spiral.

Get in

By plane

Harare's airport is the major gateway for flights into the country. Air Zimbabwe also operates a small network of domestic flights. International flights are easily available, with Air Zimbabwe with flights direct to London and Johannesburg. In recent times Air Zimbabwe flights often had to be cancelled due to a lack of spare parts and fuel. Flights are however more frequent now foreign airliners include South African Airways [1] and low-fare Kulula.com [2], both flying from South Africa's Johannesburg International Airport.

By car

A National Road from Johannesburg allows easy access. Buses are easily available ranging from greyhound (for R450 as of April 2010) to the local ones (for R250 as of April 2010). The bus takes between 16-24 hours. Delays at the border are very common and typically range from 3 to 8 hours, although they can be as much as 20 hours at Christmas time.

By bus

Most ordinary long-distance bus services depart from the Mbare Terminal, located 3km southwest of Central. Warning: The terminal itself is giant, confusing, and dangerous. There are several disconnected regions of the terminal, and finding something as simple as a taxi can require walking over 500m through markets and alleys. Although minibuses to Mbare depart from the 4th Street Terminal in Central (located at 4th & Mugabe), it may be worth taking a taxi which will be able to find a bus to your destination for you.

The Road Port Terminal, adjacent to the 4th Street Terminal in Central, has first class services to international destinations.

Get around

Although the best option to get around is by car, it used to be difficult, as there were fuel shortages in Zimbabwe.

Since Zimbabwe redistributed farms, there have been limited exports, meaning there is no foreign currency available to import fuel into Zimbabwe. As a result Zimbabwe went through a period of fuel shortages. However, now as with most other commodities, fuel is freely available at most outlets for cash or a coupon system. Most operators now import fuel by themselves and prices are independently set. Most service station will however close relatively early at around 7pm (there are a number that offer 24 hours services but could be far from where you are).

Roads: The condition of the roads in Zimbabwe has deteriorated dramatically in recent years since the government has failed to maintain them. Most of the country is now without street lights. The main highways are still in a good state of repair outside of the cities - traffic is so light now that damage from trucks is minimal. You should be OK without a 4x4 unless you head into rural areas and game parks. If you enter from South Africa, be sure that your insurance waiver is valid for travel in Zimbabwe.

Taxis: in 4+1 style taxis it is very common to fit as many as 8 people inside. Rides around town shouldn't cost much more than $5 for the entire cab at night, typically $2 or $3 during the day, unless you are going very far. Make sure you negotiate the price before you get inside the car

Minibus taxis are readily available with frequent services between central and all suburbs. Ask around for the terminal for your destination. Typically the fare is 5 rand.

See

There is a strong appreciation for the city's cultural and historical heritage and a number of the older buildings have been preserved. The Mining Pension Fund Building at Central Avenue and Second Street is one example and many more are to be found along Robert Mugabe Road between Second Street and Julius Nyerere Way.

  • The National Gallery houses not only a valuable and interesting national collection but also hosts travelling international exhibitions and has a permanent display of some outstanding Shona soft-stone carvings.
  • The priceless collection of Rhodesiana and Africana in the form of diaries, notebooks and reports of various origins, are housed in the National Archives. Some of the original works of some of the greatest names in African exploration and missionary can be viewed.
  • Other institutions which are well worth visiting include the Queen Victoria Museum and the Queen Victoria National Library, both at the Civic Centre; in Rotten Row.
  • The city was laid out with large open spaces like the 68ha National Botanic Garden with more than 900 species of wild trees and shrubs from all over the country. The Mukuvisi Woodlands is 277 hectares of remarkably preserved natural woodland that stances astride the banks of the small Mukuvisi stream. A variety of bird and of wild animal species such as giraffe, zebra, impala, tsessche, wildebeest, bushbuck, steenbuck, reed buck and eland can be viewed.
  • The Kopje, a granite hill rising above the south-west corner of central Harare, is a great place to go for views of the city.

Do

The Book Cafe has a wide variety of live music throughout the week, and there is another club that plays afro-jazz right next door.

Stars, located next to the Rainbow hotel, is a high class bar/club/lounge that plays hip hop and house music. It can be expensive but a lot of fun.

Symphony is a hip hop club/lounge very similar to Stars

Globe Trotters also known as GT is a much less expensive club

Balcony is very similar to Globe Trotters

Buy

As of April 2010, virtually all purchases in larger stores are made with US dollars, which is the national currency. Rands are accepted everywhere, but you should check the exchange rate at the place first, many places will accept rands at a 10R to $1 ratio (as of April 2010 it's ~7.3:1)

Anything made locally is very inexpensive. Packets of zimbabwe cigarettes cost 50 cents (as of April 2010). Everything that is imported is relatively expensive compared to South Africa, cans of Coca-cola typically cost $1.

If you want to experience shopping the way it is traditionally done in many African countries, you need to stroll around at the open flea-market at Mbare. Here tourists can feast their eyes on a colourful array of baskets, food, clothing and other items.

In September 2005, the government bulldozed Mbare flea market along with every other informal market in the country. Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless and without an income. The government's policy to try and cut down on informal trading has been disastrous in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.

By October 2006 many markets have sprung up again, Mbare Musika is not particularly safe and visitors should take care, especially of pick-pockets. Do not bring any valuables.

Eat

Zimbabwe's Staple food is Sadza: a thick white porridge (a bit like mashed potato), that's made from corn meal. It's eaten at every meal, accompanied by vegetables or meat in some form.

In Harare there are many westernised restaurants serving European or American style food, but far more exciting are the outdoor cafes:

  • Cafe espresso on Cork Road, Avondale, Harare has a brilliantly landscaped garden and a wifi spot - excellent coffees
  • 40 Cork Road, Avondale, Harare is an outdoor cafe, art gallery, and sculpture garden. Very much the place to be seen.
  • 167 Enterprise Road, Chisipite, Harare - an old house converted into a restaurant with a huge garden with a pool, an art shop, gallery etc...

With the dollarisation of the economy there has been a big increase in the number of restaurants and coffee shops in Harare. You can find information on the eatout.co.zw website. The Zimbabwe Tourism website has also recently been upgraded.

Diplomats and NGO's are a large part of the clientelle at the Harare Restaurants

Drink

Try Chibuku, a popular local beer. It comes in "scuds" - large 2litre brown plastic containers. The beer is lumpy and opaque beige, but is good and painfully cheap.

Shake-shake is prepackaged sorghum beer (brewed in the traditional African style) and is very thick and filling, and comes in milk cartons.

The locally brewed Castle, Lion, Zambesi and Bohlingers are definitely worth trying.

Sleep

The city boasts an internationally recognized 5 star hotel (The Meikles Hotel), but also has a signficant number of three to four star hotels that offer affordable accommodation without compromising on quality. These include The Crowne Plaza Monomotapa, The Cresta Lodge and The Holiday Inn. There are several cheap backpackers guesthouses, particularly in Selous Avenue (doubles with shared bathrooms in the $20 range). But be wary when walking alone at night in the Selous Avenue area. Harare also has quite a number of bed & breakfast/guest houses, mostly set in former residential houses with extensive gardens.

  • Palm Villa Lodge, 39 Selous Ave, dormsEatout 18:13, 28 December 2009 (EST), friendly and centrally located.
  • Mundawanga lodge, 94 Selous Ave.
  • Hillside lodge, 71 Hillside Street.
  • Small World Lodge, at the corner of Ridge and Argyle in Avondale, [3]. Still operating as of April 2010, it is a nice place, although the staff is not particularly pleasant. It costs $11/night per person in the dorm rooms, although private rooms are available.
  • Bowood Lodge, Guest House, 8 Bowood Road, Mount Pleasant, North Harare [4], has 4 double rooms set and is set in beautiful grounds. Costs are around $75 per night for bed & breakfast. Evening meals are also available.

Cope

Embassies

  • Ca-flag.png Canada, 45 Baines Ave Harare, Zimbabwe, +263-4-252181-5, [5].
  • Uk-flag.png United Kingdom, [6].
  • Us-flag.png United States, [7].

Get out

The Epworth Balacing Rocks are located on Chiremba Road, 10km Southwest of Central. Looks for the signs on the left. 4th Street Terminal has frequent minibus services to the Balacing Rocks--the driver will know where to let you out. Be careful of your personal safety inside the park. The cost is between $2 and $10 per person depending on the situation.

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